Along with pumpkins, corn shocks and mums, gourds are symbols of autumn. Their quirky sizes, shapes, bumps, and lumps are fun and their color makes them terrific additions for fall décor.
Gourds belong in the Cucurbitaceae family, which means they are related to cucumbers, zucchini, acorn squash, melons and pumpkins. Gourd seeds can be directly sown into the garden in the spring after all danger of frost is past. Because they are easy and fast to grow, they make great gardening projects for children. The plants can take up a lot of space, so give them plenty of elbow room. Watch out for squash vine borers and squash bugs, two insects that can readily kill plants.
Gourds are edible when they are harvested early. Left to mature on the plant, however, and you can understand why the hard rinds of gourds make them perfect for other uses. Native Americans used gourds for containers, bowls, drinking vessels and spoons. Gourds have been cultivated for a long time and evidence from archeological digs indicate some of the earliest domestic tools were fashioned from gourds.
Today, gourds are utilized from everything from birdhouses to artwork. Like other plants, there is a whole society dedicated to gourd aficionados, http://americangourdsociety.org/ . If you want to know more about curing gourds, check out these websites: http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/hot_topics/2008/09gourds.html